Wars make warriors. But wars also make warriors into beggars. From the first time humans employed organized violence to impose their will upon their fellow men, injuries received by combat were seen as badges of honor. The history of each warrior’s successes and defeats is written in their flesh. Each missing limb, each furrowed scar is a story. Some stories are triumphs, others tragedies. Warriors have always faced the prospect of being eroded, whittled away until they can ultimately no longer serve the purpose for which they were created. More warriors than not end their careers not only unable to fight, but unable to work. Those most unfortunate end up even unable to care for themselves. In earlier times such men had to rely on the alms of their family and neighbors, with nothing but their injuries to testify to their service. The discarded warrior is all too common. Even in our enlightened time, with our vigorous social security net, gravely injured warriors are discarded. Before the end of the Second World War, the loss of an eye or an arm or a leg did not force the departure of a soldier, particularly officers, from their service. Today, any physical imperfection means an almost instant departure into civilian life. Many of these warriors do not make this transition smoothly. Loss of purpose. Loss of comradeship. Loss of structure and discipline. Many veterans still crave these things long after their forced departure from their adopted tribe.
The discarded warriors seek only to escape their exile. Some through vice, some through exceeding the expectations of their peers, some go looking for a new tribe, for a new mission. Others search for meaning, looking for god’s plan written in their wounds. Most, fortunately, find no meaning, no plan, no god. I say ‘fortunately,’ because the only thing worse than screaming questions into the silent void, is the day that the void finally answers back.
The Cult of Nodens
Nodens is an entity primarily confined to the Dreamlands. It is through dreams Nodens reaches out to its followers, initiating them into the cult in temples found only in the Dreamlands, and issuing them their orders via a global communications network found only beyond the walls of sleep. From there Nodens works to undermine the plans of Nyarlathotep for its own alien reasons.
It is through dreams that crippled veteran’s are recruited by Nodens. Dogs play a role as well, being sacred to the hunting and healing aspects of the Nodens. Dogs find their way to potential recruits, as strays, as VA assigned companion dogs, etc. Once the dog is in the potential cultist’s life, it begins to appear in their dreams. The dogs lead the dreamer, who is whole and unmained in their dreams, down the steps to Seventy Steps of Lighter Slumber, where the guardians, Nasht and Kaman- Tha, defer to the canine emissary of Nodens and allow the dreamer to pass down the seven hundred steps of Deeper Slumber. Once in the Dreamlands Noden’s servants, the Nightgaunts, set upon the dreamer can to some desolate location in the
Dreamlands to hear Noden’s bargain.
The bargain is this- if the crippled warrior will swear utter and complete
obeisance to Nodens, accept Noden’s blade and carve away the dream parts of himself that he has lost in the waking world, Nodens will grant him “dream” limbs in the waking world. The cultist’s missing limbs or severed spine won’t grow back. Instead, when they are executing the will of Nodens, or acting to preserve themselves from danger, the crippled cultist gains the use of these dream limbs in the walking world.
Dream limbs are invisible and partially immaterial. They can hold a weapon. They can restore sight and senses. But they cannot be seen. They leave no fingerprints. Unshod they would leave no boot-prints. They cannot be damaged, so hit locations become more important. Clothes and gloves and shoes can be put over them, to disguise the loss of an arm or legs, but beneath the material they are invisible. No, you can’t spray them with paint to prove to everyone they are real. They are the will of Nodens.
The Dream limbs function in personal emergencies for the cultists (like
escaping a burning building or saving themselves from drowning) or when they have a mission to perform for Nodens against Nyarlathotep. Consequently the cultist never feels more whole and alive than when they are in danger. If the cultist refuses to do the will of Nodens, the god abandons them, leaving them crippled. Even worse, there is no escape for the cultist in the Dreamlands. If they cultist retreats down the Seven Hundred Steps they will find themselves maimed in the Dreamlands as they are maimed in the waking world.
Nodens is not “on humanity’s side.” Nodens exists to confound Nyarlathotep. It is unknown why. Perhaps the Mighty Messenger had a hand in relegating Nodens to the Dreamlands and its borders (like the eponymous Strange High House in the Mist). Nodens will have no regard whatsoever when it comes to the lives of individual humans. They are nothing more than chess pieces. Only the game matters. Nodens may have some concern regarding the totality of Humanity’s existence insofar as Nodens exists in the Dreamlands, which may, or may not, be connected to humanity’s collective unconscious. However, if Nodens is ever free of
the Dreamlands, it may regard humanity as a whole as utterly disposable. Nodens might very well spite Nyarlathotep by taking away one of its favorite toy- The Earth.
When Nodens contacts a cultist through their dreams, it is to issue orders
only. Nodens brooks no negotiating, no equivocating. Failure to obey means being returned to their crippled status. Orders can be anything from assassinations, to thefts, kidnappings, and interrogations. Cultists are brought together by their dreams to act together to thwart the plans of Nyarlathotep or advance the plans of Nodens. The first missions will always be simple and clean- kill a Nyarlathotep cultist with no collateral damage. Later missions become more morally dubious- stop a sacrifice to Nyarlathotep by assassinating the intended victim. Finally, the missions require a complete abandonment of human morality- torturing a child to force a parent to reveal information, for instance. Each mission, each contact with Nodens, erodes the cultist’s sanity and breaks their bond with humanity until they aren’t much more than empty husks anxiously awaiting their next chance to be whole again. At that point they are ready for the sorts of missions that are less about stopping Nyarlathotep and more about freeing Nodens from his Dreamlands exile.
Those missions, like the tasks set before any cultist by a god, will require oceans of blood.
Dog Soldier- Cultist of Nodens
STR 2D6+6 13
CON 2D6+6 13
DEX 3D6 10-11
SIZ 2D6+6 13
INT 2D6+6 13
POW 3D6 10-11
EDU 2D6+6 13
Sanity (POW x 5)/2 25
Damage Bonus: +1d4
Attacks: Rifle Attack: 50% M4 Carbine, 2d6 damage
Pistol Attack: 40% M9 automatic, 1d10 damage
Knife Attack: 50% Combat Knife, 1d4 + 2 + db
Throw: 50%, Hand Grenade, 4d6, 4 yard radius
Fist/Punch: 60% 1d3 + db
Head Butt: 30% 1d4 + db
Kick: 50% 1d6 + db
Grapple: 50% Special
Armor: None, but any limb that has been replaced by a Dream Limb is not able to be damaged again. Hit locations that result in missing limbs are considered to be missing. The Dog Soldiers are capable of using any modern body armor or helmets available to soldiers of their era.
Spells: INT > 16 have a 20% chance of knowing the spells Call/Bind Nightgaunt & Contact Nodens
Skills: Climb %, Hide %, Sneak %,
SAN Loss: Depending on the injury, some of the Dog Soldiers can cause a 0/1 SAN loss when their injuries are viewed. Seeing men walk on invisible legs, or hold weapons with invisible hands costs 0/1D6 SAN.
Physical Description: The appearance of the Dog Soldiers varies wildly. The one consistent factor is that they suffer from debilitating combat injuries. When operating on missions for Nodens they disguise their lost limbs with long sleeves and gloves. Empty eye sockets are covered with sunglasses. Ruined faced are covered by balaclavas or masks.